Process-Tracing as a Tool to Analyse Discretion

Part of the Palgrave Studies in European Union Politics book series (PSEUP)


Despite the decades of theorization, the causal processes in-between acts of delegation and agency discretion and autonomy are still not developed theoretically, with much ambiguity about how the model’s elements are causally connected. This chapter shows that process-tracing is a useful methodological tool for improving our theoretical and empirical understanding of the causal processes underlying the PA model. Process-tracing, as a case-study method, requires explicitly theorizing the causal mechanism that connects delegation to agency costs and forces the analyst to unpack the process empirically. The added-value of process-tracing is illustrated on the example of the Council Secretariat’s facilitating leadership in intergovernmental negotiations. It is claimed that process-tracing confronts the principal–agent model to closer logical scrutiny, ultimately leading to stronger causal claims and better theorization.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.KU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  2. 2.University of AarhusAarhusDenmark

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